where the writers are
Poets and Geeks

First there were poets. Then there were geeks. Now there are poet-geeks. I'd like to give a shout-out and a big round of applause to some of these strange but wonderful people who love poetry and computers and who are finding new ways, via the internet, to spread the good word about poetry. They do not sit around moaning and groaning that nobody buys poetry books anymore. Instead, they are creating new ways for poets and poetry lovers to experience poetry. 

First on my list is Dave Bonta, who must be a real mega-geek. His name pops up in all kinds of discussions about online journals and technology. Rather than do the same kind of online journal that has proliferated, i.e., an online parallel to a print journal, Dave has created a truly innovative online journal, qarrtsiluni, which takes full advantage of what the internet can do. Issues are themed and editors change. Instead of the entire issue appearing all at once, poems are added daily, thus giving each poem and poet a chunk of time in the spotlight. Each poem is accompanied by an audio with an introduction by Dave and a reading by the poet. Readers / listeners are invited to leave comments, so there's an interactive element. You can subscribe by email and iTunes and you can follow on Twitter. Like what you've found? Say so at Facebook and any number of other sites with a quick click of the appropriate icon. You can also download any of the podcasts. For free! Links are provided to each author's blog and website if available. This is no concession to The Book Is Dead philosophy. In fact, Dave and his cohorts recently instituted a print version of themed online issues as well as a chapbook contest. Hey, Dave even has a hoodie!

Nic Sebastian has recently taken on another kind of innovative project, a site she calls Whale Sound. Nic has a lovely reading voice which she puts to good use by creating audios of poems by other poets. There's an Index of Poets with each poet's name linking to a bio and to the recorded poem. Readers can Like at Facebook and Tweet. They can also leave comments. Guess who helped Nic with the technical issues involved in running such a project? Dave Bonta! Another interesting aspect of this project is that Nic limits it to what she has named "web-active poets." Here's the definition from her submission guidelines:

If #1 below and at least two of the remaining items accurately characterize you, you are a web-active poet:

1. A fair amount of your finished work is freely available online (on yours or others’ blogs/sites or published in online poetry journals).
2. You check and respond to email at least once a day.
3. You have a comment-enabled blog that you update at least twice a week.
4. You have a Facebook/Twitter/other online social network account that you check/post on at least twice a week.
5. You have a website that consistently displays current contact info and material.

Although the site did not begin with this limitation, I think that Nic soon became overwhelmed with requests from poets to record their poems. And she noticed that those poets who had a heavy web presence were attracting many more visits than those who didn't. This is a web project, so, of course, it makes sense to want to expand the exposure using the resources of the web.

Last on my list is Jessie Carty who has begun an online project called Referential. Jessie selects a poem or a piece of prose from submissions for which she puts out a call. That single piece is posted in the online journal. Other people are then invited to respond to it in an original piece of their own. That can be another poem, a piece of prose, some kind of audio, or a visual piece. These pieces can be submitted anytime during the year. After the initial piece is posted, the referential ones accumulate. From what I can see, subsequent ones may also, in turn, stimulate referential pieces. These are posted with a piece of art. What an interesting concept! A kind of Ponzi scheme for writers.